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Personally, Mazankowski had irrepressible energy. He conveyed authority without ever seeming threatening or elitist.
One day in 1989 I interviewed him in Edmonton for a book my wife, Sydney Sharpe, and I were writing, called Breakup: Why the West Feels Left out of Canada.
In his office, sparse to the point of penury, Mazankowski was exasperated.
He was working with a storied bureaucrat, Bruce Rawson, on the Western Diversification Initiative.
Deals had already been signed for 1,289 projects worth $665.4 million. There had been $20 billion in farm aid, and a $380-million commitment for a Calgary-based project to build a computerized air traffic control system for the whole country.
The Tories were pouring in the benefits on a scale to equal anything happening in Ontario and Quebec. Hilariously, Ontario Premier David Peterson said “we don’t get any breaks out of the federal government.”
But the GST was coming. Albertans didn’t like the Meech Lake accord or little matters like federal loans to strip clubs near federal offices in Hull.
“We started out in 1984 in an attempt to scale down government spending,” Mazankowski said.
“We were clobbered. There was a sense that just as the West was about to get its due, you guys are going to cut back.
“And we did. We went through that, and came out with the GST, and now we’re hammered with the charge that we’re spending too much money.
“We’re somewhat exasperated . . . It’s not getting any easier.”
It got harder still until election day in 1993.
Mazankowski went on to many honours and projects. His record is almost uniformly positive.
And yet this quite brilliant man, devoted to both Canada and the West, saw many of his dreams chewed up in the meat grinder of regional politics in this country.
Just as sadly, it’s all happening again.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
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